New Mexico Legislature, governor set spending priorities

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SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The governor has laid out her plan. She wants to see teachers, government workers and police officers get a small raise when lawmakers convene in Santa Fe to hash out the state’s budget.

The mood at the Roundhouse is a stark contrast to last year when lawmakers went into the session focusing on how to shore up the state’s deficit. That’s not the case this year.

Both Gov. Martinez and the Legislative Finance Committee announced their budgets Friday.

While in recent years New Mexico has seen head-butting between the Legislative and Executive branches, a turnaround from the oil and gas crash industry and an uptick in revenue has put the state in a much better spot this year with about $199 million in new money.

Of interest, both Gov. Martinez and lawmakers are looking to increase teacher, public safety and government worker salaries.

“My budget calls for an additional $70 million for our public schools, targeted to the classrooms where our dollars make the most impact for our teachers and students. With these funds, we’ll provide a 2-percent raise for all teachers,” Gov. Martinez said.

“Obviously public education has always been a priority, this time when we do have a little bit of funds, not as much as we’d like to have, but we’ve taken public schools as one of the priorities to spend part of that funding,” Rep. Larry Larrañaga (R-Albuquerque) said.

The major difference between the two budgets is that Gov. Martinez wants to set aside $6.5 million for the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office. The Legislative Finance Committee is only looking to increase that specific DA’s budget by about $1 million.

The DA’s office has a backlog of thousands of cases and needs more prosecutors and investigators to cut down on the number of dismissals and plea deals.

Lawmakers say an increase to the courts needs to be more fairly distributed, not just to one DA.

Gov. Martinez says she also hopes to reform the tax code, bringing in additional revenue. Lawmakers on both sides say they’re more than willing to work with her on that.

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